There have been thousands of sports books written throughout the years. Some have been absolute crap and most are mediocre at best, but there are that select few that remain deep-seated in our memories as classics. Below is my Top 5 of all time. There are some popular books missing – either because I don’t think it is as good as everyone else, or because I haven’t read it.
5. Foul Ball, By Jim Bouton – Bouton gives a candid look at a corrupt sports town. All he wants to do is keep a classic stadium alive, but local businesses and politicians oppose him for selfish reasons. They will do what’s right for their businesses regardless of the effects on the community. Beyond sports, their actions also are detrimental to the health and well being of those who live there. It’s amazing how greedy and selfish some people can be…and Bouton exposes them ALL.
4. Eight Men Out, By Eliot Asinof – This was a very, very interesting read and that is why I rate it so high. I am absolutely obsessed with the perplexing depth of this scandal. However Asinof presents a TON of evidence about the scandal, so much so that it can be a bit overwhelming. I probably need to go back and read it again to get the whole story down. It reads a lot like a really good history book about the Black Sox.
3. Friday Night Lights, By H.G. Bissinger – One of the things that drives me nuts about Odessa is that H.G. Bissinger wrote a very fair observation of the current state of their town and they treat him like he’s the devil to this day. Rather than acknowledge that maybe they shouldn’t put so much pressure on their young athletes and that maybe they needed to re-evaluate what is truly important to them, they chose to shoot the messenger. Maybe people shouldn’t be taught that the most important thing in the world is a high-school football game. I applaud Bissinger for his efforts.
2. Moneyball, By Michael Lewis – This is an absolutely amazing story about success. The book is far more than baseball – it shows the value of statistical analysis in equalizing and unequal playing field. Like the cover says, it teaches the ‘Art of Winning an Unfair Game’. I can’t stand narrow minded baseball purists that don’t see the value in what Billy Beane does. The man succeeds in spite of nearly insurmountable odds. Who couldn’t learn something from him?
1. Ball Four, By Jim Bouton – This is one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read. Who wouldn’t enjoy reading stories about Mickey Mantle and his crazy flings? Bouton’s stories were so controversial that he was banished from the Yankee community for a long time. He is so honest and down to earth that by the end of the book it feels like Bouton is one of your buddies. All sports fans NEED to read this.